Anyone with a map of Europe in their hands can see that Portugal has a pretty big coastline. That means no matter where you go, you’ll never be far from a beach. The most important question, before you start planning your trip, is what kind of beach are you looking for? Do you want traditional seaside fun, a place where you can build sandcastles and paddle? Want to surf some of Europe’s best waves? Do you want something totally wild that will make you feel like you’re on some far-flung island? Well, we’ve got you covered. Keep reading to discover the best beaches to visit in Portugal.

The best beach for watersports: Praia da Falésia, Albufeira

Well, we say it’s the best beach for watersports, but it might also be the best beach for photo opportunities, thanks to the dramatic orange cliffs that surround it. This massive beach stretches for a whopping eight kilometres through Portugal’s picturesque Algarve region. If you want to get some exercise, you could just walk up and down the white sands, but we’ve got a better idea.

Praia da Falesia is an absolute paradise for water sports fans. You can try kayaking, paragliding or snorkelling here. Of course, Portugal is also renowned for its great surf beaches, and Praia da Falesia is no exception. It’s one of the best spots in the south of the country to ride gnarly waves. Best of all, the incredible length of the beach means it doesn’t feel crowded. So, even in high season, you won’t need to carefully steer your board through congested waters.

a group of people standing on top of a sandy beach in Portugal

The best beach for swimming: Praia do Barril

Most beaches in the Algarve are picturesque, but when you dip your toes in the water, you may well find yourself shouting out a few curse words. Remember, Portugal’s beaches are on the chilly Atlantic, not the warm Mediterranean! Even in the height of summer, you might not want to swim at the best beaches in Portugal — except for this one.

Praia do Barril boasts unusually warm water thanks to its eastern location. That makes it a real hit with anyone who wants to get in and do some swimming! Even better, the waters here are still and calm, which makes it perfect for swimmers of all ages and levels of confidence. To get there, you’ll need to fly into Faro and then drive 40 minutes to the town of Tavira. The surrounding town is also definitely worth a visit. You’ll absolutely love its charming, old-fashioned fishermen’s cottages.

a desert with a few people walking

The best beach for peace and quiet: Praia do Magoito

Sometimes, getting away from it all really means getting away from it all. That means you don’t want to be surrounded by the laughter and shrieking of holidaymakers at the beach. Yeah, your friends might call you grumpy, but sometimes you really need to just be alone. Well, we’ve got the perfect beach for you.

Praia do Magoito is located in Sintra, just north of Lisbon. Despite its proximity to the capital, it’s known for its calmness. To get there, you have to go down some steep steps, which is enough to put off many would-be sun-worshippers. You’ll see some surfers out there on the white-capped waves, but the secluded bay, guarded by high cliffs, is usually a quiet option. If you visit and you find it’s still got too many people for your taste, don’t worry! Just a short walk away to the south is Praia da Aguda, which is even quieter than Magoito.

sea and sand in Portugal

The best beach for lively fun: Praia Dona Ana

Can’t think of anything worse than a quiet, downbeat beach? Well, here’s one of the best beaches in Portugal for you! Praia Dona Ana, just a short walk from the Algarve town of Lagos, is always full of excitement. There are sun loungers for hire on the beach itself, and there’s plenty happening in the surrounding area. The beach is around 160 metres long and has some intriguing caves for you to explore, but many holidaymakers prefer to just relax on the sand instead.

You’ll find some great bars and restaurants all around Praia Dona Ana, but let’s be clear — this is not a wild party destination. In fact, on and around the beach, you’ll see a mixture of families, adults, solo travellers and groups of friends. The variety helps create a really lively atmosphere, which earns Praia Dona Ana a top spot on our list.

brown rock formation on sea shore during daytime

The best beach for dramatic rocky scenery in the south: Praia dos Três Castelos

When you think of wild, windswept Portuguese beaches, you probably tend to think of the north of the country. With its famous beach towns like Praia da Luz, Olhão and Carvoeiro, the south is better known for its vast white sands and organised water sports. However, even in the Algarve, you’ll find secluded areas with dramatic scenery — as long as you know where to look.

Most visitors to Portimão and Ferragudo don’t make it any further than Praia da Rocha, the town’s largest beach. This is an impressive 1.2 kilometres of golden sand. There are plenty of sun loungers to choose from, lots of water sports, and organised activities to keep families happy. It’s a fine place to spend a day, but if you want to head off the beaten track, one of the best beaches in Portugal is just around the corner.

Continue going west, and you’ll come to Praia dos Três Castelos, a small beach surrounded by rugged, rocky cliffs. In fact, there are rocky outcrops right on the sand, which more adventurous travellers can climb up. There are two more cliff beaches in the area. You can keep walking to Praia do Amado or Praia dos Careanos, where you’ll be rewarded with even more gorgeous scenery. Small, beautiful and wild, these beaches feel very different from the sprawling expanse of Praia da Rocha. While you’re here, you may also want to check out Praia do Vau, another beautiful nearby beach that often gets overlooked.

The best beach for surfing: Costa da Caparica

One of the most amazing beaches in Portugal is actually just a stone’s throw from the country’s capital. It’ll only take fifteen minutes to drive from Lisbon to Costa da Caparica, making this destination an excellent choice if you want to combine a city break with a beach holiday.

That being said, Costa da Caparica isn’t known for its family-friendly paddling. The waters here are pretty chilly, and the winds are strong. That combination is what makes Costa da Caparica such an epic beach for surfers. It’s a very long stretch of sand, with some areas more suited to veterans and others that are perfect for newcomers to the sport. In fact, Costa da Caparica is known as a great spot to learn how to surf, and you’ll find classes taking place here pretty much every day. The beach has lifeguards on duty, so you’ll feel safe as you learn to master the art of surfing. Just watch your balance!

The best city beach: Praia da Ponta dos Corvos

Yes, there are actually some beaches in Lisbon worth visiting! Praia da Ponta dos Corvos is a river beach, but it still has some lovely white sand. That’s not the reason it makes our list of the best beaches in Portugal, though. What sets Praia da Ponta dos Corvos apart is the incredible views across the city.

The best time of day to come to Praia da Ponta dos Corvos is the early evening when you can watch the sunset over the Lisbon skyline. You’ll enjoy a stunning, uninterrupted view of the city from north to south, and it’s a quieter place to chill out and watch the sun go down than many of Lisbon’s more famous viewpoints.

The best beach for people-watching: Praia da Rainha

Cascais is just a short drive from Lisbon, and it’s also connected to the capital by convenient commuter trains. This makes it a popular choice for weekend getaways. In fact, this town has served as the best weekend destination for Lisbon’s hottest socialites for centuries. That explains the name of this beach: Praia da Rainha means Queen’s Beach, a reference to the days when Portugal still had a royal family, who were known to spend their summer holidays here.

This is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful beaches in Portugal, not just for the sea and sand but also for the gorgeous old mansions nearby. There was a time when all the Portuguese aristocracy kept a summer residence here. It’s worth taking a leisurely stroll along the coastline, admiring the beautiful architecture. You can also stop at the Boca do Inferno, a dramatic sea arch where Atlantic waves crash hard on the rocks. Here’s another evocative name for you: Boca do Inferno means Mouth of Hell, and on a windy day when the waves are at their fiercest, you’ll soon realise how it got its name.

The best beach for caves: Praia de São Rafael

Another of the best beaches in Portugal can be found in the Algarve, this time close to the charming town of Armação de Pêra. This is a quieter part of the Algarve, and the still waters here are ideal for kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding.

The real treat here, though, are the caves and grottoes to explore. You’ll find secret caves hidden behind dramatic rock formations. There are some great photo opportunities, as well as intriguing grottoes that will make you feel like a real adventurer.

people sun bathing on beach

The best beach for kitesurfing: Praia de Moledo

We’re heading to the far north of Portugal now. While this region is better known for its food and wine than its seaside holidays, it boasts some of the most dramatic coastal scenery in Europe. Praia de Moledo, close to the Spanish border, has the strong winds that kitesurfers need to have fun on the water.

This is a beach with a relaxed, chilled-out vibe and stunning views that let you see all the way to Spain. Even if you’ve got no interest in kitesurfing, it’s worth taking a day trip here to check out the views and relax in the wilderness. While you’re here, don’t forget to check out the little town of Moledo. This has long been a hotspot for fishermen, and it’s still a great place to enjoy some fish or seafood at its very freshest.

The best island beach: Praia Formosa

So far, all of our best beaches in Portugal have been in mainland Europe, but we couldn’t resist adding one on the island of Madeira. Nowadays, this corner of the country may be best known as Cristiano Ronaldo’s hometown, but even die-hard Messi fans will find plenty to keep them busy on the island.

Praia Formosa is a pebble beach that feels entirely different from the beaches on the mainland. It’s probably Portugal’s best spot for scuba diving, with lots of dive centres in the surrounding town of Funchal. You can also take ferries out to the outlying islands, which have their own beautiful beaches to explore.

Are you feeling inspired by this list of Portugal’s best beaches? On this five-day tour of the country, you’ll see some of our favourites, along with so much more. Don’t forget your sunscreen and surf gear!

WeRoad Team
Written by WeRoad Team